When looking at restoring and protecting large-scale landscapes, it is important to focus on all aspects of the ecosystem. This includes bringing back not only herbivores to rebalance areas, but small numbers of carnivores too. This helps to maintain the herbivore population in order to protect vegetation from being overgrazed or browsed. In turn, this provides adequate food and shelter for other organisms living here.

Earlier this year, Peace Parks TV showcased the reintroduction of one of the big five, the leopard, to Zinave National Park. Despite the perils of flying a large, sedated male leopard in the back of a small bush plane, he was successfully released into the park.  Now, thanks to the sophisticated technology of the GPS tracking collar, the staff are able to keep a close eye on his whereabouts.

Although he did at first leave the park to patrol the area at large, it was with great relief that he returned to the protected area and settled in before the introduction of a female leopard. Although these elusive carnivores are rarely seen, their tracking collars indicate that they have crossed each other’s paths several times. Watch this space for an update on possible cubs…

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All in all, it took over six weeks to locate, capture and translocate the two leopards from Karingani into Zinave National Park. As leopard are extremely territorial animals it now becomes a waiting game to see whether or not they will settle in their new home. The foundations have been laid over the previous decades, with successful rewilding efforts growing the herbivore population to over 6 500 – wildebeest, zebra, eland, kudu and other antelope species – so there is plenty of food to keep the new arrivals happy. This, along with the huge expanse offered in the 408 000 ha park could prove to be the perfect home and breeding ground for them.

Hopes For A Growing Leopard Population

The presence of a female leopard in Zinave will help attract more male leopards into the park too. Female leopards settle down when cubs are born, abandoning their nomadic lifestyle until the cubs are old enough to accompany them on outings, be it hunting or exploring the landscape. As a female typically has a litter of two or three cubs, the population of leopard in Zinave will start to increase, all being well, over the coming years.

As younger leopards are more adaptable to new areas, there is hope that this founder population of leopard will grow into around 200 leopards, all of which can be sustained by the increasingly thriving ecosystem there. This is excellent news for the ecosystem, but also for the local economy that can flourish with sustainable nature tourism. Who wouldn’t like to see a female leopard in the wild with a few cubs trailing behind her?

More Carnivores In Zinave

Back in 2020, a clan of four hyena were translocated into Zinave National Park, and they have since produced cubs. More recently, however, a huge male lion in his prime, as well as a female moved into the sanctuary all on their own. So as these carnivores start to thrive, in addition to other keystone species that are also naturally being drawn to the region, Zinave is well on its way to becoming one of Mozambique’s flagship protected areas.

So far, the signs are positive. As data on the leopards’ movements and lifestyle is gathered from their collars, it will be possible to keep an eye on how well they are doing.